Full disclosure: I have been a mother for nearly six weeks now. I didn’t think it’d be easy, but when my pregnancy went extremely smoothly I got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, my baby would be easy and being a Mom wouldn’t be too hard. Lo and behold, there are definitely a few things that shocked the hell out of me in both regards.
Birth is painful.
I’m not talking about giving birth, I’m talking about after. What I didn’t realize was that there are lasting physical effects of giving birth. Aside from the lochia, I also dealt with vaginal pain, stinging, dizziness, ripped stitches, constipation, and weakness. Fun!
Breastfeeding is HARD.
I come from super crunchy granola roots. Breastfeeding was a given! As my mom said to my son, “We just don’t let our babies have breastfeeding problems.” First it was the latch, then it was overactive letdown, meaning my milk was basically choking him. This results in lots of arching, pulling away from my breast, crying, screaming, biting of the nipple, and did I mention the crying and screaming? Not the lovely mother-baby bonding experience I imagined.
The lack of sleep isn’t that bad.
Or at least, it’s not the worst part. It gets easier, especially after the first two weeks.
Just because you happen to be an easy going, calm person doesn’t mean that your baby will be.
I didn’t assume this would be the case, but I really hoped it would be. Boy, was I wrong! We quickly discovered our baby was a screamer, and will cry for apparently no reason at any hour for any length of time. I don’t know if he officially has colic, but it is officially frustrating.
A lot of what I thought I would never do goes out the window when sleep deprivation hits.
At 4 am, when the baby is crying for fifth time tonight, and has woken up each time I put him down in the co-sleeper, and then he happens to fall asleep nicely on my chest, or right next to me, all of that talk about not having him sleep in our bed is silenced by the overriding voice screaming that I Just. Need. To. Sleep. However it happens.
The way I understood feminism was wrong.
Now, that is a broad statement. But it occurred to me the other day, while discussing birth control options with my husband, that parenthood is one area of life where most of what I thought I knew was wrong. Until recently, I could go about my life thinking that my husband’s and my roles were equally important, and balanced. We both work, and share cooking and dishes, and he does the laundry but I do the grocery shopping, blah blah blah. And then I realized that in my heterosexual relationship, nothing is more unbalanced than having a child.
I carried the child for nine months, gave birth in a 60+ hour labor, am tied to the child like glue due to breastfeeding, gave up chocolate and onions and garlic and coffee in case that’s what causing him gas, etc. And then once I’m finally starting to feel human, I will take on the responsibility of preventing this from happening again. Since I’m breastfeeding, most of the options either involve impeccable timing (ha! That sounds like a great idea!) or implanting something in a place that really doesn’t want to be bothered right now.
Having a supportive partner is awesome!
My husband wakes up with ridiculous enthusiasm for middle-of-the-night diaper changes. He tells our baby funny stories, and sings him Radiohead songs, and volunteers to help calm our baby any time of night or day. He doesn’t say anything when I roll my eyes when our baby starts screaming AGAIN. We talk about how hard it is, but how lucky we are. And having all of that makes it feel so much more manageable.
I hear that it gets better, and I’m sure that it does. Our baby has started smiling, and cooing from time to time. And when I look at our baby, I can’t help but think how crazy wonderful this whole thing is.